Slacker Friday

We've got a new Think Again column called “Pentagon Propaganda and the Media Stonewall” and a new Nation column, “Mickey Mouse Media.” Also, I'll be speaking (and signing Why We're Liberals) at the wonderful Strand bookstore on lower Broadway in Manhattan on Tuesday, May 6 at 7 p.m.

This HuffPo attack on Sid Blumenthal strikes me as deeply misguided. The story of Sid's email list is an old one. I appear to have fallen off it when he joined the Clinton campaign, perhaps because he thought I would not be sympathetic, or perhaps because he reduced it to just close friends. But all that is happening here is that someone who happens to work for Hillary is continuing to send lots of emails to his friends regarding items he thinks will be of interest. He could have stopped for appearance's sake upon joining the campaign but that would have been just for appearance's sake. Nobody could have been under the impression that these were the work of the campaign. So what, really, is the big deal? That he kept doing it? Please, stop the presses.

What's more, I am offended by the implication that because I was once on a list I have been keeping a secret. Plenty of people send me emails I keep secret. My private life is nobody's business ...

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

“Someone's out to get your lady/A few of your buddies they sure look shady.”

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “Ysabelle's Table Dance” (Charles Mingus) -- Once again, I have failed to develop a generator that can produce precisely the correct ultra-high frequency sound waves that will make Sean Hannity leap up onto the stage at Jazz Fest and pour a pot of etouffee over his head as a living memorial to how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First -- Yes, this is, indeed, a brilliant idea. Now, B-Will, as the kidz with mad skillz call him, is a good friend of the NPR program on which I fool around. However, there is a serious flaw in this proposal. If we give the Dolphin Queen the Pulitzer, to which of the voices in her head do we award it? Seriously, this is like giving a Grammy to the guy who plays air-guitar in the park.

Part The Second -- Anyone who missed Hardball on Monday night missed one of the great moments in political television. Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker tried to make the arguable case that the whole Obama-Wright affair was eight pounds of guilt-by-association bulls**t in a five-pound bag, and that the “journalism” being spouted about it was less than savory. You had to have seen the reaction of his co-panelists to believe them. Jill Zuckman of the ChiTrib got all fluttery and accused Lizza of being “high-minded.” (Oh, yes, she did. I'm not making this up.) And Matthews? Well, he'd been drowning himself in sweaty honky outrage for the previous 40 minutes and he was not going to stop now. Lizza had sailed in from the Land Beyond Punditry. I swear to god, he looked like a missionary trying to explain the Trinity to a couple of freaking Aztecs. He's lucky they didn't rip out his heart and wave it at the sun.


Part The Fourth: Big fish. Small barrel.

Part the Fifth: Arianna, dah-link, I feel for you. I really do. But if you're going to claim to be inventing a whole new media, you ought not to give a platform to people who did so much to deface the old one.

Part The Last: As interim Altercation Sports Editor, I guess I'm supposed to have an opinion on this, which I watched in real time. First of all, the whole show was simply Bob Costas' ongoing effort to create a universe in which he can be king. (Mitch Albom, talking sonorously about the professional “standards” by which he's supposed to abide? At that point, my lips ate themselves.) More to the point, Buzz Bissinger is a serious and important voice in American journalism. Will Leitch is, well, not one. However, he's got to do better at defending what he does than to admit that, basically, yeah, he's just hocking loogies at folks. Bissinger's godawfully wrong about what “blogs” do, as any visit to Political Blogistan would tell him. (And Costas stupidly or dishonestly -- there's no third choice -- sat there conflating posts and comments.) There's no better political reporter alive than Josh Marshall, no columnist funnier than TBogg, no gumshoes more diligent than the Firedoglake crew. Let's not even discuss the transcendent brilliance that is the extended Alter-Family. There are sports blogs who do much the same thing. (Eric McErlain's hockey blog is the one that comes to mind most immediately.) If I can come up with this stuff on the fly, why couldn't Leitch, who sat there like the smuggest bump on the log and got buried under a pile of not entirely undeserved invective? Bad mojo.

It's hard to know where to go with the Jeremiah Wright story, what with the law firm of Briggs, Stratton, and Husqvarna looking over my shoulder and all. What I do know is that some folks seem to have the thing backwards. He doesn't owe Obama anything. He was a minister, Obama was his congregant. He could have happily gone on doing the good works he'd done for three decades, and giving his sermons the way he had been giving them, nutty or not. Then Obama decided to run for president. AT THAT MOMENT, because of the campaign, and because of the combination of bad faith and puerility that is the hallmark of modern American political journalism, Wright became an “issue.” (And don't be fooled. You could see it coming a mile off. Sean Hannity was frothing about this subject almost a year ago.) Since when does a guy's entire career go up for grabs just because one of his congregation decides to run for president? What's his affirmative obligation to a campaign narrative of which he did not ask to be a part? (I wait in vain for someone to explain to me how what Wright says bears in any way on whether or not Barack Obama should be president of the United States. All answers meeping vaguely about “judgment” are automatically disqualified.) He's not John Hagee, blobbing around on stage with John McCain, who'd flagellate himself to get Hagee's blessing. The narrative went out and found Wright, chewed him up, made the candidate perform in the traditional Kabuki theater of televised outrage, and otherwise made a dog's breakfast out of a 30-year ministry that by all accounts served its community well and faithfully. So, finally, Wright shows up in Washington and tells the nation's media to Cheney itself, and does so in a manner so indecorous that he sounded like John McCain talking to Rick Renzi, and people pronounce themselves shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that he would do so. He's entitled to defend himself, his life, and his ministry, as vigorously as he deems necessary. That right is absolute. He's under no obligation to consider the political ramifications of that defense at all. If it were me, I'd have shown up at the National Press Club with a firehose.

Name: Bob Bateman
Hometown: Washington, DC

Eric and George,

I think you're wrong on the Pentagon story, or at least partly wrong. But I've written about it over at my regular column over at the Committee for Concerned Journalists, so I'll just link to that. I wouldn't have piped up, but particularly in the case of McCaffrey, you're lumping the good with the bad. It was McCaffrey who has said, “Iraq is abject misery ... I think it's a terribly dangerous place for diplomats and journalists and contractors and Iraqi mothers. Trying to go about daily life in that city is a real nightmare for these poor people.” In short, when he saw something good, he spoke about that, when he saw something bad, he spoke about that. (Same with a couple of the others the NYT story lumped together with some who truly were shills.) I thought the NYT story was sloppy. It had some *real* material in it (the business connections of some retired Colonels in particular), but buried the lede.

But we can argue about it over scotch sometime, eh?

Name: Steve Zeoli
Hometown: Brandon, Vermont

What struck me about Williams' response to the “military analyst” controversy is his evident hero worship. He writes about his relationship with two of the military analysts in question, Barry McCaffrey and Wayne Downing, as if they were Tiger Woods and he was a 12-year-old golf fan:

“They were tough, honest critics of the U.S. military effort in Iraq. If you've had any exposure to retired officers of that rank (and we've not had any five-star Generals in the modern era) then you know: these men are passionate patriots. In my dealings with them, they were also honest brokers. I knew full well whenever either man went on a fact-finding mission or went for high-level briefings. They never came back spun, and never attempted a conversion. They are warriors-turned-analysts, not lobbyists or politicians.”

Williams' drooling hero worship for these “warriors” couldn't be any more obvious if he French-kissed them on his news broadcast. These men somehow grow beyond criticism simply because they served in the military. No wonder Williams never questioned their integrity -- he was paralyzed by his own fawning obsequiousness.

Name: Edward Furey
Hometown: New York City

Amid the collective stupidity recounted in the comments about the Mission Accomplished carrier landing five years ago, Chris Matthews' sneering reference to McGovern, who flew combat missions for real against real opposition, is especially idiotic.

This bit of stupidity might have been acceptable if 30 years had passed since the 1972 campaign with little more public discussion about Sen. McGovern's military career. But in 2001, Stephen Ambrose published a best-selling book, “The Wild Blue,” about George McGovern's wartime combat experiences as B-24 pilot.

It was the last book I bought at the World Trade Center's Borders Books.

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland OR

Thanks Eric for letting the words of Chris Matthews and the rest who drank the Kool-Aid for Bush on Mission Accomplished Day speak for themselves. Sarcasm really isn't appropriate is it, because this isn't about a film star or a movie, it's about tens of thousands of human beings dead or wounded and hundreds of thousands more who suffer because of the ignorance of a few well placed individuals and the money trough they feed.

On that supposedly victorious day five years ago I stood on line at a local music store reminiscing about the President's actual military career or lack thereof and the sham of his appearance as a top gun. Next to me happened to be a man who took strong issue with my mocking words who had a son serving in Afghanistan at the time.

I apologized for what it was worth, not for my comments about the President but for whatever insult it might have provided to him and his son's service. We had a long heartfelt talk actually and he said despite what may have happened in the past we needed to give the President a break, let his actions as Commander in Chief speak for themselves.

It's five years later. I think the rest of the story now has been told, at least until this bitter anniversary.

Name: Jesse Zander Corum
Hometown: Portland, OR

Your round-up of stupid, stupid things people said 5 years ago was great. Somehow Joe Klein managed to out-stupid Ann Coulter -- I don't think Bill Pullman's President in “Independence Day” was a pilot. I'm unwilling to go back and watch that waste of celluloid again, but I think it had jet fighters and a President and never combined them. Especially not BEFORE the aliens were defeated.

Name: Sandy Volentine
Hometown: Phoenix

Regarding this story: Bill Moyers Journal profiles the fight the California Nurses Association (CNA) has been waging over universal health care. “There shouldn't be a double standard,” says Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of CNA.

How can I send my tax rebate to the CNA?

Name: Carl
Hometown: Muscle Shoals, AL

Once upon a time in this country the government did great things; projects that were not directly focused on increased militarization. Also, in that land of long ago, there were Republicans who weren't joined at the wrist and ankle with Big Business. This video is of a Holbrook/Twain-type performance of former Nebraska state senator David Landis as the Republican senator George Norris, who more than any other is responsible for the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Norris opposed Henry Ford's offer to take Wilson Dam off the government's hands for less than 3 cents on the dollar. One has to wonder: what would happen today?

Name: Someone Redux
Hometown: Somewhere

M sends James Bond on a secret mission to heaven. When M doesn't hear from Bond for over a day, he gets worried and calls up heaven.

The Virgin Mary picks up the phone and says “Virgin Mary speaking.”

M asks her if Bond has reached there yet.

She replies that he hasn't.

M waits another few hours and calls heaven back again.

“Virgin Mary speaking,” comes the response. “Is James there yet?” asks M.

Again the answer is no.

M is really worried by this time but he waits for a few more hours and then calls heaven back again.

“Hello, Mary speaking.”

Eric replies: Who knew? A whole new genre ...